Sir Peter Blake: 8 things you didn’t know about the Godfather of British pop art

Posted on 13 December 2017 by Liverpool Biennial

Sir Peter Blake. Photo: Mary McCartney

Sir Peter Blake. Photo: Mary McCartney

From meeting Andy Warhol for the first time to how he became an artist, here is what Sir Peter Blake shared during his visit to Liverpool earlier this year. Scroll to the end to watch the full conversation between Blake and art historian and writer Richard Cork, organised on the occasion of the extension of the artist's Dazzle Ferry artwork. 

1. Dazzle camouflage was originally used in World War I to protect ships by confusing enemy radars with bright patterns, but in developing his iconic design for Everybody Razzle Dazzle, Blake also took inspiration from modern jazz. He says it could have easily been named The Jazz Ship.

“Once I’d started at Gravesend School of Art, I went to the local jazz club in Dartford. The musicians played swing, and suddenly bebop happened. The British bands were playing the music of people like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, so I was writing at the very start of a new start in music. My love of modern jazz has always been a great influence for me."

Sir Peter Blake, Everybody Razzle Dazzle, 2015. Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Tate Liverpool, in partnership with Merseytravel and National Museums Liverpool. Photo: Mark McNulty

2. Blake didn’t discover his passion for art until the age of 13 when applying to school.

“It was childhood, and then being an art student overnight at the age of 13. I was never a child prodigy, I didn’t even draw much during the war time. It started at school."

3. The cover of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Blake and his then-wife Jann Haworth designed, was in fact a monumental sculpture built on a stage set.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art. Courtesy Parlophone/EMI/The Beatles

4. Kurt Scwitters inspired Blake’s collages, which are a re-current technique in his art. He had a roommate with a connection to Schwitters, and this is where his fascination with collage began. He even curated a show at Tate Liverpool called About Collage, where he put together a group of Schwitters’ small sculptures that had never been exhibited.

5. In the 1960’s Blake moved out of Greater London into the West Country, shifting his interest from Pop art to Ruralism. However, when returning to London, he didn’t consider himself to be exclusively a Ruralist artist.

6. He is now a great admirer of Andy Warhol but initially didn’t like his work.

“Most of our meetings were monosyllabic. At first I didn’t like his work much, I think he is someone that has grown in stature. He has certainly painted some of the great icons of Pop art like Elvis and Marilyn. I respect the art more and more as time goes on. I think he was a great artist."

7. Blake has a huge collection of artefacts in his studio. While he would prefer them to be sold at an auction, he wouldn’t mind if his studio was eventually turned into a Peter Blake museum.

8. When asked about his opinion on contemporary artists, Blake admits that he finds it difficult to stay up-to-date with current art trends. He feels that at the age of 85, he has reached a point when he shouldn’t really have to.

“As long as you can do it, you don’t stop."

Sir Peter adds his signature to Everybody Razzle Dazzle. Photo: Ant Clausen

See Sir Peter Blake’s Everybody Razzle Dazzle for free from the Liverpool waterfront, or hop on board for a ride and explore the curated display about dazzle camouflage. Find out more here.

Watch the full conversation here: